The honey and the hemlock: democracy and paranoia in ancient Athens and modern America

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Basic Books, Sep 26, 1991 - History - 429 pages
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"Democracy is a miracle," Eli Sagan writes, "considering human psychological disabilities." To shed light on this "miracle," Sagan focuses on the world's first democratic society, Athens, and mounts a compelling argument that Athens and the modern American republic, although separated by more than two thousand years, share the same fundamental moral and psychological dilemmas. Athens was a paradoxical society, Sagan maintains. Obedient to the rule of law, concerned with social justice, remarkably tolerant, it displayed an unprecedented psychological maturity. Yet at the same time it was an imperialist state, capable of genocidal action against other Greek states, that rested on the labor of thousands of slaves and treated women as political and social pariahs. The Honey and the Hemlock probes this profound mystery, exploring the intimate connection between political paranoia and a society's capacity--or incapacity--for democratic behavior. Sagan offers provocative observations, drawn from the Athenian and American experience, about the rule of elites, the political psychology of war and imperialism, the boundaries of social justice, and the roles of gain, honor, and wisdom as ruling political passions. A cautionary tale of ancient Greece and the ongoing struggle for democracy today, The Honey and the Hemlock is a fascinating account of the struggle between the rational and irrational in our public life.

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The honey and the hemlock: democracy and paranoia in ancient Athens and modern America

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Sagan, a radical democrat, postulates a Freudian interpretation of history. Unfortunately, however, his polemics do not always fully appreciate other political forms. His definition of democracy, for ... Read full review

Review: The Honey and the Hemlock: Democracy and Paranoia in Ancient Athens and Modern America

User Review  - EdMohs - Goodreads

i haven't completely got thru this its a complicated read of ancient & how it relates to modern democracy Read full review


Ancient Athens
Democracy and the Paranoid Position
Crisis and Possibility

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About the author (1991)

Sagan is Lecturer in Sociology on the Graduate Faculty, New School for Social Research, New York City.

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